With just a week to go before Thanksgiving, there's new hope in the grocery workers contract dispute. Negotiators are back at the table today after a resounding majority of union members threatened to go on strike.
Ninety four percent of the grocery workers affected at Safeway, QFC, Fred Meyer and Albertsons said last week they would rather strike than accept the last offer from their employers.
Their contract expired last spring. Barbara Rhodes, a deli worker at the QFC on Broadway in Seattle who's been with the company 16 years, says she's never seen a worse offer.
"We sat at this table for 9 months and they still sent it back to us and it was the same thing: you want to take, you want to take, you want to take," Rhodes says.
She says the proposal cuts holiday and Sunday pay and raises premiums on health care. It only gives a pay raise to the most senior workers. She's praying for a better offer after this round of talks.
"And I do understand, there's people out there waiting for those jobs if we were to strike. But if we don't stand together on this one, we will never ever get anything else out of this employer, they'll figure this is a win-win, for them."
The employers say their offer is in line with other recent agreements in the region. Spokesman Scott Powers says it includes nearly $50-million more for pensions and medical benefits. He says the union leadership is exaggerating about the cuts.
"The important thing we think is that we get back to the bargaining table, because that's where these issues will get resolved," says Powers.
They're at the table today and tomorrow. If they don't get an agreement, the parties would have to give 72 hours notice before taking any labor action. That means it should be clear by Monday whether the big pre-Thanksgiving shopping push will be affected by a strike.
The contract in question covers about 25,000 clerks and meat packers throughout the region.